Afterthoughts | Epilogue to Amends
Buffy stood at the window watching the snowflakes still floating down as gently and serenely as they had been since morning. She wrapped her arms around herself, caught up in the memory of what had happened, of the gift given to both of them. It had passed time for the sun to rise while they were still arguing...and then the snow had begun to fall, saving his life
Faith was helping her mother with the washing up, noisy and good-natured after the big meal, the 'nog and the champagne toast her mother had insisted upon, to make up for Christmas Eve. Buffy, though, had eaten little, too preoccupied to really savour the Christmas treats.
She watched a neighbour's cat plough irritably through the snow and wondered what the others were doing, smiled at the vision of Xander waking up buried under a pile of snow that morning. And Willow and Oz were probably making a snowman by now
Buffy's face dropped. She watched a snowflake drift serenely down to a feather-light landing on the windowsill and her eyes became luminous. A moment later she knew what she was going to do.
Joyce Summers looked around, her hands still in the dishwater. "Buffy?"
She had been upstairs, changed and put on her coat. "I have to go out. I won't be gone long, but I have to go."
Faith put down a half-dried dinner plate. "Oh yeah? Slaying stuff? Can I come?"
Buffy shook her head. "Buffy stuff. And I need to go alone. I promise I'll call if I get held up."
"I suppose she's going to see Angel, again," Faith speculated as they watched her trudge out into the snow.
"Maybe," Joyce said quietly, fairly certain she knew where Buffy was going. "But I don't think so. Let's get in out of the cold. What about a nice hot coffee and some Christmas cake ?"
Buffy hesitated in front of the familiar door. She didn't know why her mother was so jumpy about Giles, except that she never really had got over, or talked about, that nightmare with the band candy
It took a while for her timid knock to be answered. Giles had a book in one hand and an oven mitt in the other. He seemed surprised to see her, but there was warmth in his eyes.
"Hello Buffy," he said quietly. "Merry Christmas."
Buffy followed him into the apartment. "Happy Hanukah."
Giles looked over his shoulder on his way to the kitchen. "Indeed. Make yourself comfortable. I've got something in the oven and I don't want to incinerate it if I can possibly help it."
"Smells good. We did dinner already. Mom asked Faith to stay over."
"I see. Then I take it this is a temporary respite?"
Buffy frowned as he straightened and turned.
"No. It's Christmas. I'm doing my Christmas visiting."`
He came back into the living room. "Ah. In that case, can I offer you a drink?"
"NNo, I'm fine. Giles, I'm sorry."
He halted and stared at her. "Is there something I should know?" he asked, concern in his voice.
"Huh? Oh, no. I mean never mind. I wanted to thank you for helping Angel"
His expression turned cool. "I didn't do it for Angel."
"I know that."
There was a moment's uncomfortable silence, then she took a small package from her coat pocket and handed it to him. "I've had it since way back in November. I saw it in the window of that little antique jewellery shop in Argyle Street...."
He had opened it and was looking in the small grey box, puzzled. And, she thought, pleased. "It'show did you know what it was?"
"Willow. She was researching Saint Francis for an assignment and found this other guy in the same book, on the same page. I didn't think any more about it until I saw that."
"Well, I don't know what to say. It's beautiful, of course, and quite old."
"Yeah, the shop guy said that, but he said nobody really knew who he was any more and that was why I could afford to buy it. Anyway, it's kind of appropriate: Saint Giles, patron saint of cripples, beggars and lepers."
Giles, turning the piece in his hand, the small, heavy medallion impressive in its workmanship, and the weight of the chain that went with it, looked up at her then.
"I'm not sure I follow."
"Me, Xander, Willow, Faith, even Cordy and Angel. We've all been outcasts at one time or another."
"And you see me as what? Some kind of guardian of the lot of you?" he asked, puzzled.
Buffy shrugged. "You're always there." She looked up slowly. "Do you ever get homesick?" she asked, apropos of nothing.
Giles blinked, then looked across at the window. "Occasionally," he said, and nodded toward the window. "Today particularly. Why do you ask?"
"I never thought about it before. You're here. England's over there. I mean, who do you have to talk to about your day; to complain about your workload, your ungrateful slayer, Principal Snyder, missing books ?"
Giles started to smile at Buffy's rambling, but was overtaken by another thought.
Buffy watched the lightning change in his features, the emotion that clouded his eyes.
He stood up. "I'm quite content with my lot, Buffy. A great many watchers never achieve the privilege of an active slayer."
"You never called me a privilege before," she teased.
He half-smiled, and looked around his living room. "You can be a very trying privilege," he parried back.
She smiled then frowned when she realised his thoughts were still elsewhere. "Penny?"
"For your thoughts?"
"Oh." He shook his head. "Not this time, Buffy."
She accepted that. There were few things Giles wouldn't share, and she had little trouble guessing which one of them was occupying his thoughts.
"Why did you help him?" she asked softly.
His eyes met hers. "Because I still believe it's what she would have wanted."
"But not you?"
He shook his head slowly. "God help me, but it's not in me to forgive what he did to her, to Kendra, to you, to me "
Buffy looked deep into the green eyes. "And me?"
His eyes softened, and crinkled a little at the corners, but his expression didn't change. "Do you really have to ask?"
She bit her lip. "Every day," she replied softly. "I wanted to talk to you but I couldn't. I was afraid"
"What happened was as much my fault as anyone else's."
"That's not true. There was nothing you could have done to stop me seeing him, and you know it. I made mistakes. And I can't even wish all of them unmade "
Giles closed his eyes. "There is an old saying: 'don't cry over spilt milk'. I've always detested it, but it somehow seems appropriate here. You can't change what happened, Buffy, any more than I can."
"That's not why I'm here," she said quietly. "You said once I didn't respect you, or the job you do"
"I was in a rage"
Buffy held up a small hand. "You were right."
Giles stared at her, his jaw dropped.
"It's true. I only realised it today, when you helped ushim. I should have come to you about Angel right at the beginning. I didn't because I didn't I didn't trust you enough to not want to kill him, or send him back or something. I was so scared. I wanted to tell you, so badly, but I couldn't. And I'm sorry."
He closed his eyes, let his chin rest against his shirt. "Well I have to admit I am hurt, and disappointed. I've always felt that trust was the one thing I did always have from you."
Buffy took a step forward, mouth open to object, but Giles raised a hand.
"I know why you didn't come to me, initially. I can even understand it, but how long were you going to keep it from me? Or am I really nothing more to you than some sort of benign shepherd, there for emergencies, disasters, dispensation of wisdom and the picking up of pieces?" he asked, his voice rising almost angrily at the last.
For the first time Buffy began to understand just how deeply she had hurt him. It had been so easy to dismiss the naked emotion in his eyes that day in his office, simply as Giles in a rage; something to be made up to him, as though it could be fixed like a child with a sticking plaster on a cut.
She looked at him, his head lowered again, his hand on the back of his neck, a mannerism she associated with Giles at his most frustrated, or lost.
"Giles, what I said before it wasn't strictly true. It wasn't that I didn't trust you; it was more that I didn't think you would trust me. I already knew Xander wouldn't, and Willow would have just kept at me to come to you." She stepped closer to him.
He looked up slowly.
"The truth is there is no one I trust more than you."
The green eyes searched her face then. Buffy watched them, saw the doubt. She took a deep breath.
"I'm probably never going to say this again, but I can't imagine my life without you in it. At first you were just there, and then, somehow, you belonged there and suddenly I needed you to be there. I can't do it without youI don't want to do it without you"
"Giles, this is hard enough. Don't yell at me yet. This isn't like truth time with Willow or Xander, or or even mom. I don't know what this is like, only that it's hard, and it hurts, and it scares me to death."
"I know," he said softly, his voice warm with affection. "Growing up often is and does."
Buffy stared at him, her eyes filling with tears both of relief and of sorrow.
Giles shifted uncomfortably. "Why don't I get us a hot toddy aand you can open your CChristmas present," he said, turning toward the stairs.
"Giles, wait "
He turned, and caught her, startled, as she leaped up and threw her arms around his neck. She buried her face against his collar.
"Merry Christmas, Giles," she said tremulously.
After a beat he wrapped his arms around her and held her as tightly as she was holding him, closed his eyes and rested his cheek against her hair. "Merry Christmas, Buffy," he replied. "Merry Christmas "